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News/Business. Keith Morrison, Josh Mankiewicz, Hoda Kotb. (2013) Narcotics detectives work with drug dealers; a young woman's family looks into her disappearance. New. (CC) (Stereo)

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Brittany 92, Jamel 14, Justin 12, Joe Roberts 12, Us 12, Roberts 10, Charleston 9, Durell 9, Florida 9, Ann Lydon 8, Brenden 7, Terrance 7, Prosser 6, Lyrica 5, Cheryl 5, South Carolina 5, Oregon 5, North Charleston 5, U.s. 5, Brittany Tavar 4,
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  NBC    Dateline NBC    News/Business. Keith Morrison, Josh Mankiewicz, Hoda Kotb.   
   (2013) Narcotics detectives work with drug dealers; a young...  

    March 17, 2013
    7:00 - 9:00pm PDT  

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charity prosser and jamel foster have made their personal mission to win. >> the thing is, wherever he is, we're going to find him. >> there's no other children in the house, just the one? as a narcotics detective a good day is putting a dealer in jail. that's a good day. somebody that was found with about a pound and a half of marijuana. >> the 39-year-old daughter of a marine, charity, wanted to be a cop since kindergarten. >> i want to get bad guys. i want to help people that can't help themselves. >> charity is still in a military family. her husband, todd, is a master sergeant in the air force and she's moved eight times for his career. they are raising a 17-year-old son, taylor. when todd was transferred to north charleston ten years ago, charity seized the chance to pursue her dream to be in law enforcement. >> here is really important, it's important to me. her career almost defined her.
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i liked that about her. >> charity made todd promise this move was their last. >> i love north charleston. i love the department i work for. i love the area and this is home. >> where is he at? >> on the corner. >> jamel is charity's partner and just as driven to catch criminals. you're an aggressive cop. >> i'm an aggressive narcotics detective and my passion, i chase drug dealers. >> but jamel, a navy veteran, is also a father of four. he is raising 14-year-old jamarney, who lives with him. >> she gets up in the middle of the night and she sees me not in my room and she'll pick up the phone and call me. hey, daddy, where are you at? i'm in my office. >> for both, family often takes a backseat in their relentless pursuit of drug dealers. the epicenter of the drug trade is this nondescript intersection simply known as the four-way in a neighborhood called charleston farms. ♪ so feign imus, local rapper
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flame-a-b who grew up on the streets shot video here on the streets for this video "how you rockin'"? guns were waved for dramatic effect but are part of real life at the four-way. so are drug sales which happen in full view of the families who live here. >> you drive your car to the stop sign, they'll run to your car you know, trying to see if you're interested in buying drugs. >> they know when the cops are coming. they have little systems set up. they're whistling. >> lee haley owns the corner business store. he has seen his business dwindle as law-abiding citizens, especially the older ones, are too afraid to shop in his store. >> a lot of people got robbed out here on this whole corner. >> the people who call this neighborhood home are resigned. >> it doesn't matter how much police activity is out and about on this street and how much they're arresting them. they get out on bond and they get right back out on the street. >> but on this wednesday morning, january 2011, everything is about to change,
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dramatically. >> we're going to do four search warrants simultaneously at four different locations. >> a risky and audacious year-long experiment is set in motion. >> go, go, go, go, go. >> the goal, rid this neighborhood of drugs and violence for good. >> charleston police. >> charity and jamel are excited. months ago, they laid the groundwork for today's assault. working undercover they caught 31 dealers on video, selling drugs. >> had the opportunity to go into one neighborhood and start investigating it, targeting those people that are tearing down the quality of that community was exciting for us. >> police, search warrant! >> now, armed with the names of those dealers, s.w.a.t. teams break down doors. the operation is a success. 43 people are put in handcuffs and sent to jail. but here is where this experiment takes a radical turn. eight low-level drug dealers are
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purposely not arrested. there is something more ambitious and unconventional waiting for them. >> we actually thought our part of this was over. we got the bad guys. they're off the street. we're good. >> hardly. jamel and charity are about to be involved in this program in a way they don't see coming. one that will make them question everything about the relationship between cop and criminal. coming up, charity and jamel are asked to try a radical approach to fighting crime, one that goes against all their instincts. >> what was your reaction? >> hug a thug. >> hug a thug? >> i was extremely against the whole idea. >> just what is this idea? and will it work? needs, when it needs it.d
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hours after s.w.a.t. teams stormeded through the charleston farms community, the streets are quiet and seemingly safe. >> at night now, you don't see near as much activity or hardly any activity, illegal activity. >> south carolina's u.s. attorney, bill nettles, devised this program, a year-long, three-step assault on drug crime called s.t.a.n.d., short for stop and take a new direction. step one has just ended with the arrest of 23 hard-core dealers. in step two, dozens of charleston farm's residents come to court and try to influence the judge to set higher bonds and keep those dealers in jail. >> when somebody gets a $200,000
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bond over normally it's been $15,000 or $20,000, big difference. >> but now comes step three, the most difficult of all. remember, there were eight low-level drug dealers purposely not arrested. bill nettles wants to save them from a life of crime. >> we knew a lot about them. some of them are selling drugs because they're supporting a habit. and some of them are selling drugs because they had little other choice, or at least they felt they had little other choice. >> these eight men, whether they know it or not, are at a pivotal moment in their lives. none of them are hard-core criminals, yet. u.s. attorney nettles is convinced intent intervention with education, employment and counseling can transform them from law-breaking to law-abiding citizens. >> we felt that, rather than send them to jail, we could get the same positive result for the community without paying to
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incarcerate them. >> that i'm thinking was probably the hardest sell. >> it definitely was. >> this is a you have unique project. >> but not for police chief john zumalt, who eagerly signed his department up for the s.t.a.n.d. program. for years he struggled to drive drug dealers off his streets. >> in 2007 we had a lot of murders, 28 murders. making us the seventh most violent city in the united states. >> most of it drug related? >> almost entirely drug related. >> still top narcotics detectives jalel foster and charity prosser are skeptical of this reform. >> what was your reaction? >> hug a thug. >> hug a thug? >> hug a thug is what it was coined in the office. i was against the whole idea. >> even still, spread out in the neighborhood, armed with invitations for the eight dealers. the goal, get the men to come to city hall voluntarily where each accept help to turn their lives
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around or go to jail. police find one of the eight on his bike, justin lemon, unmarried father of two. >> we've got you selling drugs on video. you will not be arrested as long as you come to city hall 5:30 on wednesday. >> officers soon locate the others. etienne reese, 35, is the oldest of the group. >> i'm going to give you a slider here. >> he lives at home with his mother, as do most of the other men. >> we think you have a lot to offer and we really want to help you. >> the youngest is danielle branton, still in high school, he's the only one of the eight who is not a dropout. 24-year-old david major is raising two toddlers, but continues to sell drugs. durrell butler left his parents' house years ago, choosing to live on the street.
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now a father of five at 25, he has arrests for selling cocaine. terrance was hoping basketball would be his future and became addicted to life in the streets. that's him in the background in flama-b's rap video. about the four winds. brenden judge is 22, undercover videos caught him selling drugs at the corner store. >> you've been identified as a low-level drug dealer. >> this is an opportunity to help you get over there and maybe change your life. okay? >> the week following the big neighborhood drug bust, residents and law enforcement gather at city hall. it's a tense waiting game before a carefully orchestrated confrontation between dealers and the community is scheduled to start. bill nettles is anxious. were you afraid these guys wouldn't show up? >> oh, yeah. that would be kind of a train wreck, right? >> whether it's fear of arrest
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or desire to go legit, one by one, the guys finally show up, justin, terrance and the others take their seats on the front row. facing them down, federal, state, local law enforcement, all sending the same message. we know who you are and there's nowhere to hide. >> you all are fortunate to be sitting here in front of us. >> just to punctuate the seriousness of their situation, a photo lineup right in front of them of all those arrested in the sweep and sent to jail. >> you man up right now and be responsible for the first time in your life. make your family proud. make yourself proud. get a piece of paper with your name on it, son. i work for that check. that's how i got it. i work for it. >> the choice is a stark one. stop selling drugs and accept this program of high school classes, community service and rehabilitation or suffer the consequences.
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>> we're going to be watching. and if you screw up in this city, we're going to put you in prison for a long, long time. >> at the end of the hour, bill nettles gets the last word. >> there's hope for each and every one of you. the only person that knows whether you're going to jail or not is you. >> no surprise, all the men choose to enter the s.t.a.n.d. program instead of arrest. the question now, who is going to take this band of law breakers and transform them into honest, educated and hard-working citizens? charity is stunned when the phone call comes from headquarters. >> they've decided i was going to lead the s.t.a.n.d. program and the first instinct i had was just to hang up. i told them i'm not a social worker. i'm a cop. >> charity's partner, jamel, gets the assignment, too. both believe this is a waste of their skills as crime fighters, but orders are orders. >> me and charity just went out
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and hit the pavement running. >> it was the blind leading the blind. we had no clue what we were doing. >> coming up, it all starts with a makeover. looking good is one thing, but our detectives are about to find out how hard it is to change someone on the inside. >> his attitude quite honestly is completely negative. >> when "dateline" continues. [ engine turns over ] the 300c john varvatos limited edition. now lease the 2013 chrysler 300 for $299 a month for well-qualified lessees. ♪
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it's february 2011 in charleston farms, and backhoes destroy abandoned mobile homes, a favorite haven for drug dealers. while neighborhood cleanup is part of the s.t.a.n.d. program -- >> i think it's over here. >> -- narcotics detectives charity prosser and jamel foster have a far more difficult reclamation project, their mission to convince eight low-level drug dealers to give up the fast and easy money they can make on the street -- >> who is wanting a haircut ? >> -- for a legitimate job that pays in a week what most of them make in a single night selling
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crack. when you're 19, 20, 21 years old, do you think there's no good end to this? >> they don't think that far. they think day-to-day. >> day-to-day. >> there is no thought for what is my future going to be. okay, everybody. >> they start with something easy and fun. a makeover for each man. >> you like this one? >> we took them to goodwill. >> you don't want to put stripes on top of stripes. picked out a few suits, dress shirts, slacks, trying to get them ready for a possible job interview tomorrow. >> next stop, the barber shop. justin lemon seems to enjoy the attention. >> what do you think about the idea of getting groomed up, coming to the barber shop? >> that's a real big thing. >> you think you have the potential? >> for real. >> but behind the smiles, no one forgets who is on what side. >> they're cool people but at the end of the day, you still have to remember they're the police, you know? >> drug dealers are our enemy, essentially and we're cops, we're their enemy. >> just have to take off that badge and let them know we're a human being. >> it's a careful balance
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between empathy and law enforcement. the rules of the program are simple. full participation is required and no drug dealing. anyone caught selling will be arrested and forfeit their second chance. >> you have your randoms today. >> random drug testing is mandatory. in this neighborhood, dealers often carry drugs for sale in their mouths. >> the reason they did that, if law enforcement got out with them, they would just swallow the crack. they got rid of the evidence. >> a positive drug test could reveal who still is selling crack on the side. >> we're a little suspicious, so we selected five that we were really concerned about and we had all five fail. >> all eight men began drug counseling immediately. >> we're going to talk about marijuana and i'm going to show you some of the things that it affects as far as what happens to your body when you use it. >> the program is more than just keeping the men away from drugs. it's teaching them skills for a new way of life.
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the men with children need parenting classes. >> you're emotional right now. you can't control your emotions, all right? >> others require guidance in filling out job applications. >> just down here in the summary part. >> the men struggle with this new structure that consumes every hour of the day. rushing from part-time jobs to counseling sessions and more job interviews. >> the roller coaster is learning their personalities, learning what the niche is to get to them as far as getting them to focus and what is important to them. and i just need them to trust me to show them this is possible, that people can change. >> but trust isn't the biggest problem right now. money is. justin lemon gets one of the first temp jobs offered to the group. it pays better than minimum wage, but it isn't paying the bills. >> $10 an hour? i still consider that minimum wage. it's chump change, man.
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i'm doing it the right way but i don't like living like this, man. >> but two months into the program, the guys are still holding up their end of the deal. >> hey, guys, glad to see you all. everyone bring their homework? >> charity keeps a tight reign, organizing a mandatory weekly meeting for the group. >> what are you doing this week? >> these sessions are part lecture -- >> like i told you from day one, we can't want it more than you want it. >> hard practical skills. >> if they say you need to be at work, what time do you need to be there? >> 8:30. >> that's what i want to hear. >> and a lot of encouragement. >> we're proud of you guys and the progress that you've been making. >> durrell butler who has the longest rap sheet, emerges at the group's leader. >> work, eat, sleep, back to work, but i'm glad for the job. >> always upbeat, the younger men look up to him. >> he can motivate them to participate in a whole lot of the programs faster than we can do it, you know.
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>> when a local church starts to renovate an elderly woman's home, durrell is the first of the group to volunteer in the neighborhood where he used to sell drugs. >> we'll fix this house here. >> this house? >> yeah. it feels good, you know, to be giving back, doing something for somebody. >> people look at you funny, knowing you used to sell drugs here and suddenly you're back and -- >> yeah, they couldn't believe it. >> but while durrell is making good progress, charity is ready to kick etienne reese out of the program. he's not showing up for appointments and falling behind the others. >> yes, ma'am. >> charity calls his mom. >> he's not there. he's not participating and his attitude, quithonestly, is completely negative. >> etienne's mom begs charity to give him another chance and brings him into the police station to face the detectives. the problem, he says, he's afraid his peers think he's a snitch. >> you need to stop thinking about that.
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who is going to harm you getting educated? who is going to harm you to learn things? we aren't asking you what's going on out there. we want to you get your education. we want you to get a job. >> sometimes on the other side of the law, who is going to do all of the changing for this? >> you don't have to like the police. like yourself enough to want to make change for you and your son and your mother and your grandmother and the rest of your family. you don't have to like the police. not at all. >> etienne decides to stay in the program. and the next morning, he is one of the first to arrive for the group's volunteer work in the community garden. >> every wednesday, there's going to be like a group of you that comes out and makes sure everything is looking good over here. >> there's a lot of people in the neighborhood that are hungry. this is good. we're going to take some of these vegetables out and give them to some of of the old people and that in the neighborhood and that's going to be good. you're going to be helping them. you're going to be helping us. >> good thing. >> yeah, man.
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i'm proud of you guys. you take care. >> whole time we were out there, i didn't hear one complaint from the guys. they got in there, had fun watching each other. >> there is more to be proud of. brenden judge just learned his boss at his temporary job is so impressed, he can now go full time. >> i was watching brenden as he was getting the news and his faith face lit up and started saying, yes, ma'am, yes, ma'am. thank you. he was extremely ecstatic. >> but soon there could be big trouble for the s.t.a.n.d. program. >> hey, how are you doing today? >> informants are calling with the same news about one of the men. >> my phone was blowing up. i tried not to pay attention when i first got the information. i didn't really want to feel like this guy was coming in here, pulling the wool over our eyes. coming up, something is about to go down that will shake our detectives. >> that just kills me. >> what will it do to the program?
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it's merely 4:00 am when detective charity prosser leaves her sleeping husband and 17-year-old son. >> i slept for about two hours, got home about midnight. >> to drive a complaining justin lemon to a job 30 minutes away. >> i'm tired, too, justin. you've got some responsibility. we just talked about this last night with your mom. your mama needs help making those bills. you're living there. you need to help her out. you're just not feeling like going to work isn't going to cut it. >> most of the men have no driver's licenses or car. so charity and jamel are constantly behind the wheel to classes, appointments and jobs. this morning, jamel foster drove brenden judge to his work. >> at the end of the day, we're going to make things happen for him, but once we're out of his life, he's got to learn to be responsible and be on time for it. >> it's an exhausting pace, virtually 24/7 with no guarantee
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this program will even work. ? >> me and my daughter live together. i'll probably go home, might cook some breakfast and get me a nap and make sure she gets to school on time. >> in the process, the detectives' own families often get the short end. charity's husband, todd, never knows when she'll be called out. >> there's times, 4:00, 3:00 in the morning the phone will ring and she'll be gone and she'd have to maybe go, you know, help this guy out. >> and no one needs charity's help right now more than terrance poinset. >> you need to tell us what you got going on. >> i got family problems. >> poinset's mother is seriously ill and money is tight. >> tell us how we can help. >> i don't want to talk about that, i get emotional. i don't want to talk about that. >> these young men struggle to discuss personal problems. yet rare moments like this reveal the pressures and urges that might pull them back to the street. >> i don't know what to tell you guys what i can do. >> how do you know they can't
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help you? >> i'm scared, you know. >> you're doing good in the program. you know that, right? look at me, though. look at me, though. you never lied to me, right? i want to see you succeed in this program. that's all i want. >> i want that, too. >> exactly. >> you know how proud your mama is? you know how brave she is? you have that in you, too. he understands that honesty is essential with us. if they come to me and tell me they have a problem, we will address it. >> all of the time spent with each man, the meetings and the driving, is changing the detectives' attitude about their assignment. >> it's consumed my life. i would have thought at the beginning of the hug a thug program that i would have become so attached to these group of guys. >> give somebody a chance to change their lives.
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any case i've made money, guns off the street, cannot replace this experience. >> then just as charity and jamel truly believes their men can change, their hearts are truly crushed. the detectives are chasing down a tip by a confidential informant that durrell butler, the leader of his peers in the s.t.a.n.d. program -- >> work, eat, sleep, back to work. >> -- is dealing drugs. >> oh, man, charity. >> charity and jamel watch as officers go through durrell's car on the side of the interstate. inside his fiance, two children and $3,000 worth of cocaine. >> on behalf of myself and detective prosser, man, we are very disappointed in you. >> i got so much expect for you all.
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i feel so bad. >> i didn't know how to react. i didn't know how to feel about it. it just killed me. >> well, durell, let me tell you something, man. >> i just took my life. >> durell asked to say good-bye to the guys now left in the program. they are stunned to see their leader in handcuffs. >> i'm going to let durell be the one to explain to you guys what happened and why he is in handcuffs. >> i got caught up with trafficking drugs, and i don't want to see none of all in the predicament i am. >> all of the guys were in tears. it was very hard i think for everybody to just acknowledge that we lost him. >> charity hopes durell's arrest is a wake-up call for the seven men still in the program. >> detective foster and i love you guys to death, but we have a job to do. that means if we have to love you in this room and go out and lock you up later on, that's what we've good to do because that's what we're going to do.
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>> the guys embrace durell. it seems his mistake has made a huge impression, especially on terrance poinset. >> i heard it. i couldn't just sit and look at him, do you know what i mean? >> less than a month later, terrance fails a random drug test. >> you have to do some soul searching. you have to do some soul searching. >> across the room, the news is much better for brenden judge. he has passed his drug test. >> hang it up on the wall, man. >> i got to see more of them. >> it's a daily reminder but that's the first step. >> it is. >> let's go! >> the detectives hope the success at drug testing will follow them to a critical part of the program, the chance for the men to earn a ged. >> carry the one. >> all but one of the men dropped out of high school and they are now far behind academically. charity adds one more job to her responsibilities. tutor. >> are you sure? okay, hit no.
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i sit right next to terrance and help terrance out and champion him and let him know you can do this. every day we're going to practice these. little bit every single day. >> the only one not here is danielle branton who still attends high school. charity doesn't see him as much as the others and worries when she hears his girlfriend is pregnant. >> she's 18, hasn't graduated yet. he's got a baby come. how is he going to be able to afford it? >> two days later, charity gets the answer. >> right now we're heading over to the charleston farms area in the process of searching for danielle branton. >> danielle has sold crack cocaine to a confidential informant. >> we got him at sledge. >> listen, how come you're out here still selling dope? >> if we're standing here, we already know. how many times i tell you, you need a job? how many times -- >> i was in school, about to graduate, man. >> you're willing to be out here and work but not get a legitimate job and make money. how is that even far? >> did you not understand what
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durell was telling you last week? >> we got durell. did you think that we weren't going to get you, too? >> five months into the program and two of the eight men are in jail, unable to quit the easy money made on the streets. more than ever, the six men who remain depend on charity and jamel to help keep them from doing the same, but none of them know that charity is wrestling with a personal crisis and is about to make an agonizing choice. >> my heart is split in two. it's in two different places. coming up, at home charity faces a dilemma. and on the streets, the most dramatic confrontation yet with one of the men she's been trying to save. >> justin, spit it out now! >> when "dateline" continues. n.
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♪ by springtime, the six men still in the s.t.a.n.d. program make this a weekly ritual. a bond has grown among them that helps soothe their private struggles. the one struggling most right now is justin lemon. justin is $1,600 behind on child support and is ordered to court,
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facing possible jail time. if that happens, he will be expelled from the program. >> you only made one payment in april. >> jamel and charity attend the hearing to show their support. >> i could feel justin's body shrink, could almost feel him wilt next to me. >> charity makes sure the judge hears about the progress that justin has made at work and school and then stands by his side as the judge renders a decision. >> you do not have to spend 30 days in jail. >> the judge suspends jail time if justin obeys a payment plan. for now, he's free and clearly impressed with the effort the detectives made on his behalf. >> i got people who is on my side, who is rooting for me to do the right thing, you know, like cheering me on. that's really helping me, you know. >> there is little time, though, to savor this victory. >> your target is terrance poinsette.
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>>er it raens terrance poinsette failed a drug test two weeks ago. it's a sign he could be selling drugs to solve his money worries. >> got the arrest warrant. >> a drug raid in a nearby apartment confirms it's true. >> we are currently en route to execute a search warrant. it's in here. >> before success on the job for charity meant catching drug dealers. now it feels like failure. for the third time, she's arresting someone she's tried so hard to redeem. >> you know, it's a hard thing to deal with. i had extremely high hopes for him. >> i ain't trying to make no excuses. i don't think i'm excusable. i am flat, flat broke. >> you've had access to me 24/7. when you call, i answer. if you don't reach me right away, i call you right back. i never treated you any differently than i treat my own. how do you think it makes me feel sitting here, putting one
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of my own in handcuffs? >> the atmosphere at charity's home is even more tense. with a secret none of the men in the program knows. >> we're in the process of completing our packing. >> the air force has again reassigned charity's husband. it's a four-year stint, 5,000 miles away in hawaii. and despite his earlier promise to keep the family in north charleston, todd expects her to come, too. >> for my family's sake, you know, realistically, the best thing for me to do is go. >> but that choice carries a stiff penalty. if she follows todd and son, taylor, to hawaii, she'll lose 11 years of seniority on the force and have to start her career all over again. >> now check this one and make sure this one's right. >> weighing heavily in her decision are the men who still struggle to become something more than a mug shot. >> you know, i've asked them to
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trust me this long and it's not fair for me to just drop off the map and not complete it. >> on a dreary, july morning, charity and her family arrive at the airport. and with a good-bye kiss, it becomes obvious, charity has made the decision to stay in south carolina. how did you make the decision? >> i had a real hard time starting things and not finishing. >> in the meantime you don't have a home. >> i have a home. somebody else is living in it. we rented out our home. >> not to be too personal, but where do you sleep at night? >> at my office. sergeant has a very comfortable couch. >> some would say that's a huge sacrifice, being separated from your husband and son, sleeping on the couch for the benefit of eight ex-drug dealers. >> well, it's that and the love of the family i have here in law enforcement as well.
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>> charity's decision is challenged a few months later. >> the general area. >> word on the street, justin lemon, the one she supported in court and drove to work at 4:00 a.m., is selling crack. >> let's go. let's go buy some dope. >> a confidential informant sets up a deal with justin to buy crack. she's wired and waiting. >> ain't making no deal at all if i don't go to this chinese restaurant. >> yeah, i copy that. >> when justin shows up at the meeting spot, he's suspicious, knowing three of his fellow group members have already been arrested for dealing. >> let me see your phone, dog. she the police. >> i swear to god it's not. >> detectives fear the informant is now in danger. >> all right, everybody. go ahead and take him down. take him down right now. >> the informant reports she saw justin swallow the crack he was about to sell. if he has, the drug could kill
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him. >> spit it out. >> justin, spit it out! justin, spit it out now! coming up, justin pushes charity to the brink. >> do you think i'm going to give you a break when you're in here, destroying this neighborhood again? >> can any of these men turn their lives around, or has all of charity and jamel's hard work just gone down the drain? the world! [ male announcer ] the new creamy cajun steak & shrimp, and cajun shrimp pasta. big easy meets big value on our famous 2 for $20 menu. one app, two entrees only 20 bucks. see you tomorrow. [ buzzing ] military families face, we understand. our financial advice is geared specifically
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>> justin lemon's second chance
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for a new life ends face down in the dirt. >> spit it out, man. >> it seems he hasn't swallowed crack as officers feared, but he is caught on tape, trying to sell it. >> i can't believe you're back out here doing this. >> charity has no choice but to arrest him. >> anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. >> despite the jobs they found for him and the 24/7 attention they've given, justin lashes out the detective. >> [ bleep ] program because [ bleep ] cool, dog. i don't give a [ bleep ] man. and charity, you're the dirtiest one of all the [ bleep ]. why? you tell me we have a chance. what [ bleep ] chance? you all going to help us? >> charity and jamel are furious. >> you think i'm going to give you a break? you're destroying this neighborhood again? this community gave you a break. come back and start serving dope to their kids. >> justin's arrest comes at the end of a grueling year-long s.t.a.n.d. program.
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half of the eight dealers have failed, throwing away a once in a lifetime chance for an education and a good job by returning to a life on the streets. yet half of them have slowly, but surely put themselves on a new path without drugs in their lives, they now have hopes, plans and even dreams. we sat down with four of them. two who failed and two who succeeded to get their perspective. first, we show them highlights of their past year, video they've never seen before. for brenden judge, it's been a year of firsts, his first full-time job, first bank account and first opportunity to rent his own place. he is one of the program's successes. what was the best memory on that tape for you? >> there's so much from the
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goodwill to the school, to me working. just everything. it's like, hey, came a long way, man. >> tell me what you're doing these days. >> back of the garbage truck, community, dumping all the trash. >> how does it work? >> it's a blessing. living the life. i can't complain about that. >> david major is another success story. he has landed a full-time job with the city and a part-time position as a cook in a restaurant. what is it like to earn a paycheck? >> getting it legit. got a bank account. >> for six months, terrance poinsette did well, too, until charity caught him back on the streets selling drugs. when the handcuffs were slapped on you, what was the most difficult part of that? >> to tell you the truth, i'm not glad i'm in jail, but i'm glad i got caught otherwise i would have been doing the same thing. >> early in the program, durell butler was the group leader in
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class and at work. was the program working for you? >> i see myself starting to change and i started to like it, you know? >> but like terrance, durell wanted quick money, tried to sell the drugs on the side and got caught. >> if i know what i knew now, i'd have gotten a second job. i work two, three jobs right now if i could turn back the hands of time. >> all of the men agree. the program's most important element is jobs. because without the officer's help, few businesses would have hired them with their criminal history. brenden, you don't think you could have gotten that job on your own? >> no. you got the law put a foot in the door for you, telling people give them a chance. that's what happened. >> david, tell me about charity and jamel and personally what they have done for you. >> they taught me to do it right, proud of me and like a friend, help me. inspire me. >> now that the year is over,
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this group is moving on. terrance and durell leave our interview back in their jumpsuits and join danielle branton and justin lemon in jail but david, brenden, etienne and jermaine work at making a go at a life that once seemed beyond their reach. whether they succeeded or failed, these men believe the year-long experience has worth every minute. the people who live and work here in charleston farms agree, things are better. thanks to the massive drug bust, the cleanup projects, the cooperation between residents and police, and the effort to save this group of young men. at the store where street dealers used to scare away customers, ownley lee hailey stocks more on his shelves. >> i see older coming into the store that i hadn't seen. >> at the community center, neighbors celebrate the change
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in charleston farms. >> since this program went into place, it's just been -- it's been tremendous. >> like almost the way it used to be. >> dramatic turnaround? >> yes. i would say so. >> it is the outcome u.s. attorney bill nettles hoped for he first launched this program. now that this seems to be a success, are there other communities that are saying we want it? >> yes. there are other u.s. attorneys that are talking about it. i know here in north charleston, they're already talking about replicating it in other neighborhoods and i'm working to replicate it across the state. >> no one would be more supportive than the two detectives who once believed they had no business rehabilitating drug dealers? are you surprised at what you learned about them as people? >> yes. they're human, too. they made mistakes and didn't know how to get back on track. >> not only did we learn a lot about them. we learned a lot about ourselves. >> right.
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>> these days, jamel continues to keep new dealers from undoing the progress made in charleston farms. and charity has stayed in north charleston and has been promoted to sergeant prosser. there were eight. there is four. is the program working? >> had we started off with 100 and end up with one, the program worked for me. >> if we can affect one life, look at the ripple effect to that family. their daddy's not in jail. they have to have someone to teach them right from wrong, to teach them respect and responsibility. that in itself, if we could just save one, if we could just help one, the ripple effect, you're talking countless people. countless. and now our second hour of "dateline." >> she had a look of absolute terror on her face. she was scared. she really, really was agrade, and i don't really know why. >> she was a sunny, free spirit who yearned to make it in
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hollywood. but she made headlines instead, when she vanished. >> one day she was gone. her pets were gone. i knew that something happened. >> did something drive her away or maybe someone? there was that old friend turned enemy. >> they seemed to be very passionate about hating each other. >> there was the new friend, young and handsome, a man of mystery. >> he said i'm not what people think i am. and i thought, i wonder what that means. >> tonight, police are on the trail, from her beach resorts on the atlantic to the deep woods near the pacific. >> i told her, this could end up killing you. >> a brother and sister desperate to learn the truth. >> it's just chilling for me to think about that. >> a keith morrison mystery "the stranger." >> they noticed at first her favorite place, private beach club that faces out at the south atlantic. took a little longer for the story to spread up and down the historic streets of this oldest
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of all-american cities. until it reached the ears of a young reporter named justine griffin. "crime beats st. augustine times." >> this one was definitely one of the most bizarre that's covered. one day her car and she was gone, her pets were gone. >> the "she" justine is talking about was a local fixture here in st. augustine, a striking blond of a certain age named brittany tavar who, without a word to anyone, up and vanished. hardly a big story. after all, people do come and go around st. augustine and this was july 2010, heat ratcheting up. good time to head north maybe? >> as the weeks went on, it sort of got a little bit strange. >> a little bit strange? in fact, the disappearance of brittany tavar was about to become the biggest and trans strangest story of justin griffin's young career. not just that brittany
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disappeared but vanished on such an important day, for her, the day she was due to appear in a st. augustine court and bring charges against a bitter enemy. >> hee had an enormous amount of anxiety. >> this is brittany answer sister pat. pat lived clear across the country in portland, oregon. she couldn't do much about her sister's worries, couldn't help her confront her nemesis in court. she had been aware since girlhood that brittany was pretty good at looking after herself. >> we were polar opposites. i was much more academically oriented than she was and more analytical. she was very agile and athletic and i wasn't. i spent my childhood following her up trees and trying to jump over creeks and she could do it and i couldn't. >> scattered family, five siblings in all. andrew, one of brittany's three brothers kept track of her from his place in the northeast. >> she was very extroverted, marched to the beat of her own drum.
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>> so when they heard she was missing, pat and andrew had to consider the possibility that brittany had decided to try something new. >> she very much had a sense of inventing herself, you know, her whole life. >> like the time she went to hollywood, years ago. wanted to be a movie star. >> she wanted certain things in life and she thought if she believed in herself and went out and tried that she would get those things. >> didn't get those things, up to now at least. but she had some family money. settled comfortably in st. augustine, took up photography. real estate, bought a nice house and joined a private beach club called the serenata where she developed a group of close friends, including brenda lemky. >> she was a single woman living on her own. i thought she was very strong and very brave. she had money. she didn't have to worry about that. still she had to create a life
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for herself, a social environment. she was interesting. she wasn't boring. >> joanna simmons was also a friend from the serenata. >> i invited her to come to choir and she seemed to really enjoy it and so she joined the choir. >> was she a spiritual woman? >> i think she had a spiritual side to her. >> they enjoyed her personality. she could be sparkly and vivacious. i was prim'sed she had so many close friends who cared so much about her. >> because brittany's family members lived so far away, friends like joanna and brenda who first tried to solve the puzzle her absence that week in july. >> i called a few times but didn't hear anything. and then thursday came. and i called thursday and i knew -- i knew thursday that something happened. >> so brenda called brittany's family and they asked her to go
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around to the house but frankly just looking at the place from the outside, she didn't see any sign of foul play. back in portland, brittany's sister, pat, didn't know quite what to do. >> i actually happened to have a long-time friend as a police officer and i called him and said what do we do? he said just get a locksmith. send brenda back with a locksmith and have her go into the house. >> which, by now, several days after brittany dropped out of sight, brenda did. and inside, nothing seemed amiss. although, she had apparently taken some of her pets. her two little dogs. >> her dogs were gone, huey and coo-bear. her little white bijons. >> but brittany also had cats and they were still in the house, alone. >> one of the doors was opened for the cat to go in and out. >> some people do that, it's true. but brittany? >> my sister loved her cats very, very much.
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and she would never just go away on a trip and leave them to fend for themselves. >> where had brittany gone? why would she take her dogs and leave her cats and take off, vanish on the very day she was all set to appear in court to resolve a bitter feud, a feud which she told her family kept her in constant fear. >> it was very strange that all of a sudden the day she was supposed to be in court, now she's gone. coming up, what was brittany running from? and did this free spirit sometimes trust the wrong people? >> over the years, eight spare room. new cascade platinum's triple-action formula not only cleans your dishes, it helps keep your dishwasher sparkling. so we're good? don't do that. okay.
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something was off. something very wrong here in the drifting heat of the st. augustine summer. friends of brittany tavar had been unable to reach her for several days. >> everyone that knows brittany knows she would never just pick up and leave like that, without telling me. >> so, brittany's family, frantic, but far away in opposite corners of the country, called a locksmith. asked brittany's friends to go inside her house, have a look around. and the place seemed perfectly normal. except one or two little things didn't quite make sense. >> there was some anomalies like
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the air conditioning was blasting. she never would have left the air conditioner blasting. >> there's one more thing, though. not so much something wrong as just a little too right. one of the friends who searched brittany's house was tim martin, a man brittany had been dating. >> she was a little unorganized but the house was very cleaned. it looked like somebody was going somewhere but -- >> somebody had fixed the place up? >> yes. >> the good news is that everything was tidy. there was no sign of a crime scene. the bad news is the home looked too clean. >> it certainly could be that brittany simply cleaned the place more thoroughly than usual, then packed up and left and left the back door open for the cats. the police told the family that in the absence of foul play there wasn't much they could do. no law against a grown woman taking off without telling anyone. >> we hired a private investigator, who started
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looking around to find something that would get the police involved in the case. >> the p.i. made his inquiries. over the next few days, brittany's family made their own investigation and soon discovered a few very brittany-esque secrets, things she never told them about. >> we didn't know that over the years eight different homeless people lived in her spare room. she usually had some kind of arrangement with these fellows that they would help her with stuff. the first guy helped with the yard work. she would never tell us that because, of course, we would say, bad idea. >> yeah. >> you know. you can't just invite strangers to live in your house, you know. >> that's a very interesting thing, that a single woman living on her own would do. >> she wasn't really practical. the risk of it, either she would have dismissed it or maybe that was what was interesting about it. but i think she really liked the idea of helping people. >> kind of like bringing home a bird with a broken wing and you've got to fix it or something like that? >> right. >> and make it right. >> she also grew up in a family
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where serving people and serving the poor was just part of the environment that we lived in. >> brittany had recently been hosting a handsome young man named joe roberts she met at a barnes & noble store. >> she was trying to start up some enterprise and he was going to help her do the computer work. >> she was a doting landlady but -- buying young joe new clothes and a computer. she showed him off at a beach club. >> here she is, joann, joann. >> he could be my brother, my younger brother. he seemed like such a nice guy and that he just really wanted to try. >> they accepted him as somebody brittany was trying to help and who might help her. >> very charming. i thought he was well mannered. he thought the girls were really shallow at his age, just wanted to have one-night stands and he didn't want to be involved in
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relationships like that. he really wanted sincere relationships with women. >> those women could plainly see he was a bit of a hottie. and, of course, you know how gossip can be. good-looking young guy that brittany treated very kindly. he stayed in the master bedroom? where did she stay? >> she had a room over by the pool, the swimming pool. she liked to listen to the fountain at night. it helped her sleep. >> there had been speculation there was something romantic or sexual about inviting this young man in? >> i joked with her about it. she would always say, no, he likes megan fox. he's not interested. i'm too old. >> still, who really knew what went on behind closed doors? anyway, they couldn't ask joe. he never stayed anywhere very long and he wasn't around
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anymore to shed light on his ex-landlady's disappearance. still playing amateur sleuth, brittany's family now asks the obvious question, was there anyone here in st. augustine who might want to harm brittany? and the answer was a resounding yes. friends like joanna simmons told how at the serenata beach club, in the days before she disappeared, brittany seemed terrified. >> i saw her one day leaving the hot tub area to go into the pool. she had this look of absolute terror on her face. >> why brittany was terrified began with a very weird story. a neighbor she had gotten to know, this woman. her name is ann lydon. >> everybody knew brittany. if she stopped you, you'd want to chat and get into your life. >> you couldn't get away from her for a while? >> no. she was a busybody. >> if ann doesn't speak very kindly of brittany now, you have to understand it was different at the beginning. they were friendly enough to
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become partners in a dog breeding venture. >> she wanted to breed huey with one of mine. >> but then complications. brittany began a romance with a fellow named billy, a friend of ann and her's's. billy as the new boyfriend, moved right in and everything was hunky dory until -- well, love is unpredictable and in this case it didn't last. >> they got into some stupid fight and billy called and said i'm coming to get my stuff. she said come by yourself. >> but billy didn't go there alone. he was accompanied by ann lydon and her husband. >> brittany said don't come in the house, and they came in. >> she was cussing, screaming, whatever. i said, okay, i'm leaving. >> what happened? >> she hit me over the head with a wine bottle and she was sitting on top of me, strangling me and michael and billy pulled her off. >> two sides to every story, of course.
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brittany said ann and her two men refused to leave. >> you would think, that's her house. if i say get out of my house, you should leave my house. >> yes, it was true they fought, said brittany. in her report to police, brittany claims she didn't start it. in fact, after the fight subsided, it was brittany who called the police to accuse ann of assaulting her, but -- >> i went over and talked to ann and they came back and arrested brittany. >> arrested brittany? but why her? >> she admitted that she put her throat -- her hand on ann's throat and they arrested her based on that. >> they charged brittany with battery. she spent the night in jail. >> it was a very traumatic experience. she called me up crying. >> in court brittany was sentenced to probation, anger management classes, community service and a one-year order to stay away why ann lydon, but
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ann, oddly perhaps, chose to be closer to brittany, at least physically. she and her husband joined brittany's sanctuary, the serenata beach club. >> i felt bad for her because that was a place she really got peace and was able to socialize with people and enjoy herself there and then all of a sudden, here they show up in the hot tub all the time. >> and before long the conflict, the growing fear was all brittany could talk about. >> she was fearful for her life. and i told her, this could end up killing you. coming up, did brittany's terror drive her hundreds of miles away? >> her dogs are found roaming the streets. >> that's just the beginning of a long, strange trail. >> they were following her credit card transactions, north carolina, idaho, oregon. >> when "dateline" continues. anywhere...
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what a respite was the serenata beach club. what a lovely perch from which 20 enjoy the brilliant sun, the warm, soothing current.
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but on those summer days at 2010, event at the serenata were perhaps too warm. sworn enemies faced each other across swimming pools and hot tub and all the while brittany seethed with an expanding insults and incidents heaped on by her ex-friend, ann. >> i with his like, brittany, can't you just let this go? she couldn't let go of it. it was an obsession actually. >> brittany accused ann of keying her car. so she began carrying around a video camera as a kind of visual bodyguard until the day when ann, tired of being taped, swam over to the camera, at that point poolside, inside brittany's bag. >> yes, and i knocked the camera in the pool. she pushed my buttons. she went around telling the whole neighborhood, everybody, i'm scared for my life. >> it was after the dunking of the video camera that brittany launched legal action against ann. by this time, she had invited
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joe roberts into her house and so she enlisted the help of the handsome young border to prepare a dvd of the incident to show the judge. when she got to court, said brittany, she was going to tell that judge just how dangerous she believed ann was. that, in fact, she was afraid ann was going to kill her. >> i think all her friends made it was very clear she was quite traumatized by this, very, very much afraid by this ann. >> the court date was wednesday, july 7th, 2010. the morning arrived. ann came with her attorney, who sat in court, waiting and waiting and brittany did not show. that was the very day she disappeared. convenient reprieve for ann? too convenient? bizarre said the crime reporter justine griffin, with regard to how important that day had become to brittany. >> she was doing everything she could to make sure this restraining order was going
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through. >> these were not necessarily gentile ladies then? >> no, no. they seemed to be very passionate about hating each other, especially toward the end. >> so in the days following writ brittany's disappearance, some people wondered how much ann lydon knew or what she might have to do with it. after all, if anybody had a motive, it was ann. had all the anger, emotions, bitterness finally culminated in some violent confrontation? >> were they looking at you as a suspect, do you think, the media? >> of course. that's the first thing you're going to think of. i already had all the news and helicopters and all that, you know, swarming the front of my house. >> the local police department got wind of it, of course. >> that's basically where detectives started asking questions. >> but not very many questions. and not for long. in fact, according to ann, there was really only one thing those detectives asked her.
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did she know anything about where her arch enemy had gone? what did you tell them? >> i haven't seen her. he goes, that's all i need to know. never heard from them again. >> and, poof, just like that, the police ruled out any involvement on the part of ann lydon. there were other reasons, too, of course, for doing that. one of which is brittany was just fine the day before she failed to show up in court. >> they had surveillance footage at the gas station that showed her getting out of her car, putting gas in it and driving away. nothing unusual. >> and between the time that video was recorded on july 6th and court the next morning, it turned out ann lydon had an unassailable alibi. what could brittany's family do? for all that's their efforts they couldn't sway police that a crime had occurred, that something bad happened. they only had the choice to follow what leads there were on their own.
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>> we were keeping cool heads, being vigilant, trying to do everything possible to coax them to do things they hadn't done. did my sister go on a cruise? did she leave town for a week or something? search this area. you haven't searched this area. why haven't you done this? >> but they also hired a private investigator, remember, and he had an idea. if they couldn't find brittany, maybe somehow they could find her dogs. >> we were checking the pounds. we were doing anything and everything you could possibly imagine. >> word about the dogs spread. the week after brittany's disappearance, a call came in and what do you know? >> tiny white dog. >> looked like a rabbit at first. >> her dogs were found in columbia, south carolina, without collars, just roaming the streets. they were both found separately. >> how did they manage to connect two dogs in south carolina to her? >> she had them microchipped with her information on them. the veterinary clinic was able
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to scan them and figure out these dogs were from florida. >> and belonged to -- >> belonged to brittany, yep. >> one of the dogs is found two or three states away, no tags. now finally there's probable cause. there's no question. that was a key break. >> that was enough to get the police involved. unfortunately, at that point, it was 11 days after she disappeared. >> st. augustine police took over from the band of amateur sleuths. pat did what she could do to help, met with police, did the rounds with local media, tried to keep the search for her sister front and center in the public mind. >> the family long ago ruled out any possibility that this is just a purely innocent departure for her, you know. that just is not possible that, she would abandon her pets and, you know, stop calling her friends.
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i really felt there was a short, brief window of opportunity while there was still some publicity about the case and people will move on. there will be other stories. >> quite reasonable worry, especially when the search for brittany seemed to be going nowhere. >> her picture had been everywhere. and had she been anywhere, somebody -- in florida, somebody would have seen her picture. that's why we started to think, she really has disappeared. >> and then, suddenly, a break. almost two weeks after brittany disappeared, the police finally picked up her trail. looked like she was on a long, winding road trip. they found her credit card transactions, which headed north from florida to south carolina, where her dogs were found. >> they were following her credit card transactions. there were transactions in north carolina, idaho, oregon. >> the question was, was brittany alone or was she with someone else? was she the driver, the willing passenger or was there something
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else going on? and what about that young drifter who disappeared along with brittany? >> he said, i'm not what people think i am. i thought, i wonder what that means. yup. another pill stop. can i get my aleve back yet? ♪ for my pain, i want my aleve. ♪ [ male announcer ] look for the easy-open red arthritis cap. ♪ license and registration please. what's this? uhh, it's my geico insurance id card, sir. it's digital, uh, pretty cool right? maybe. you know why i pulled you over today? because i'm a pig driving a convertible? tail light's out.. fix it.
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spouses late for dinner. the teenager stays out all night. an awful, sinking feeling when a loved one is out of touch. usually, of course, everything rights itself, but not for the family of brittany tavar. in 2010 they found themselves stuck fast in the pergatory of missing persons. where families go to wait. for what, they do not know. >> you alternate between it's not real. it's really not happening, to having these terrible, terrible moments when you realize that something irreversible has happened. >> brittany's two little dogs had been found abandoned by the side of the road, three states away in south carolina. brittany loved those dogs, would never abandon them. and yet -- the credit card record made it look like she had done exactly that, that she had been driving her car clear
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across the country. at last, a nationwide alert was issued for brittany's car. now, with the whole nation's law enforcement on watch, the answer to what happened to brittany tavar should not be long in coming. the family held its collective breath and waited and hoped. >> we're dealing with the bank authorities. they're talking to the police. if there's any activity, one guy had a pager on him with one of the cards. if anybody tries to put anything through on this card, our guy's pager is going to go off. >> now the local police have been joined by u.s. marshals and the fbi. attention now turned to the young man who had been living at brittany's house, the one she had been showing off at the beach club, 26-year-old joe roberts. seems joe had left around the same time brittany disappeared. and police now had to consider a possibility that brittany had simply washed her hands with the feud with ann lydon and taken off on a cross-country trip for
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young joe. for justine griffin, that only made the story more interesting. >> living in her house for free. >> makes you think. >> they thought maybe the two of them had just left, just gone on a trip together, just left town. >> really, it was all speculation. in fact, nobody had a clue what those two did. and then another lucky break, or it seemed lucky. the good news in mid july, police found out that just four days after brittany vanished, a cop stopped her toyota on a highway out west, but brittany wasn't driving. joe was. >> july 11th, roberts is actually stopped by police in wyoming for speeding. >> the bad news? that cop stopped the car before the alert went out. he wasn't looking for the car or brittany or anybody. he said he didn't recall seeing a passenger but then he wasn't looking for one. >> they let him go with a warning. >> and now that car and whoever
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was in it was long gone. but that stop triggered a serious effort to find joe roberts. >> it was after that that they had released an arrest warrant for him with grand theft charges. >> so the investigation took a turn. the police, hoping that finding roberts would lead to finding brittany. once again, her family went to the public for help. >> what we really need is for the broadest possible audience of people to be looking for joseph roberts. that's the linchpin. that's the only way we're going to get any answers. >> the police went on tv, too, hoping to raise public awareness. >> we believe that the car is going to relate to people more so than him, because it's a rav-4 dark blue color vehicle with florida tags. he pretty much can blend in with any crowd. >> trouble was, police soon discovered that only a few days after brittany disappeared, just after the time of that traffic stop, the credit card trail
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abruptly ended. they must have stop using the cards. and without the credit card trail, the police had no idea where roberts and brittany were now or if they were even still together. and if not, where was she and what was he up to? >> what we're concerned about is that he meets someone else at a coffee shop, is he living in someone's house right now? that's why i think it's very important to get this story out as much as possible. >> all that effort finally produced another break, or what seemed like a break. and justine's next big story. police discovered somebody caught roberts on videotape just four days after he and brittany disappeared. >> there was surveillance footage of him walking into a walmart in ontario, oregon, and him buying a tent and some clothes. >> just him. no brittany. then again, by the time somebody found the walmart video and got it to the florida police,
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roberts was nowhere to be found. >> they have alerted police in that area, started putting out flyers. it looked like once he got to the walmart he was going to go off the grid with his tent, to live in the woods. >> but just who was this kid anyway? what was his story? before brittany took him in? a lesson in recent history seemed in order. the curious story of young joe roberts. >> he said to me something really interesting which i thought was -- kind of stopped me for a second. he goes, i'm not what people think i am. and i thought, i wonder what that means. coming up, that strange and charming drifter, was he hiding a shady past? >> the more i got to know him, the more he started scaring me. >> when "dateline" continues.
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it's a strange thing, rather cruel actually, how an answer so desperately sought can slip away at the moment of capture. police had finally sniffed out the trail left by joe roberts, the one person who seemed to know what happened to brittany tavar.
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before they could catch up to joe, he was gone in a puff of oregon fog. >> the investigators had alerted police and law enforcement all the way up through washington, past seattle in the pacific northwest. they thought he was headed in that direction. >> meanwhile, investigators warn brittany's family. >> what they're telling me, he had a history of falling off the radar screen. >> and sure enough, that's just what he did. and days turned into weeks. summer turned into fall. no sign of him. police suspicions turned darker. >> it's important for us here in florida to not lose interest and not be putting it off as this guy is 2,000 miles away, because he might still be in our backyard or coming back to our backyard for all we know. >> life went on for the rest of the world, but not for those who loved brittany tavar and knew full well time is not on the side of the missing.
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>> i really did feel the more time went on, the less likely we would be to find him. >> brittany's family found themselves in kind of limbo, barren landscape shared by more people than they ever thought possible. >> people would say to me, you need to talk to so-and-so. his sister disappeared. there are hundreds of thousands of missing persons, all heartbreaking stories. you're just a number in a pool of people who are going through this or who have gone through this. >> back in florida, police had been digging up everything they could find about joe roberts. as justine griffin learned, joe had been on the road, ran out of money about the time he got to st. augustine. >> came here, got a job as a clerk working at a kangaroo gas station. when he couldn't afford to stay at a local motel, he would sleep in his car. this is how he came to know a
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few other women in st. augustine. >> one of them was a single mother named cheryl davenport. he needed a place to stay. cheryl invited him to her place, put him in a spare bedroom right down the hall from cheryl and her two small children. >> he was a nice guy, always good with the kids. >> wasn't worried about him. >> a pretty boy face. wasn't intimidating at all. i think i with his more intimidating than he was. >> but then cheryl began to tell us rather more disturbing things about joe. >> he told me that the reason he left home, he had run some type of internet scheme to where he was getting people's credit card numbers and stuff like that. and they had found out and so he took off. >> he confessed this to you? >> yeah. and he said him and his family don't get along because they believe he has mental issues, severely messed up in the head and that he was convinced he
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didn't have issues. >> when he moved in, said cheryl, he told her he used to have a drug problem but swore he would stay clean. certainly at least while living with cheryl and her family. >> he actually looked for a job for the first month and then slowly got lazier and lazier. >> what was he doing? >> going on drug binges. that's when the anger started coming out. the more i got to know him, the more he started scaring me and the more he started upsetting me. >> that's when she said she demanded that joe get out of her husband. and then -- >> he was about this close into my face and he went like this, like he was going to punch me in the face. and i just looked at him with a dead stare and i was like, joe, i swear to god, if you hit me, i will take you down. >> so he left and found brittany, who police would learn, told her friends not long before she disappeared that she was getting a little exasperated with joe, too. >> she said she would come home and he would have gone through
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her stuff and that they got in a few little fights. i was kind of worried. i would ask and she would go, no, it's okay. it's okay. >> did you warn her? >> i did. i did. i warned her about having people into her house. >> and now still no word. >> we still didn't stop believing that there was a chance that she was alive. >> police rededicated their efforts to find the elusive joe roberts. >> we had run out of leads, frankly, when it comes to his trail going west. it's less populated than we are. if he doesn't have his vehicle on the road and he's keeping a low profile, hopefully, somebody will see him in a store when he goes for provisions when he goes for groceries. we want to turn up the heat. we are looking for him. no doubt about that. >> and then sure enough -- >> we figured it would be something trite or petty that he would get caught for. sure enough, that's what happened. coming up, the drifter makes a mistake and brittany's family learns the truth. >> just chilling for me to think
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about that. and coming up next sunday on "dateline," how well do you know your friend, your co-worker, your neighbor? >> he's generous, helps people out, golf with his some of the neighbor guys. >> a former eagle scout, mormon missionary, the kind of guy who would fit in anywhere, even on the fbi's ten most wanted list. >> on the surface, everything looks normal with this guy. >> the seven for a suspected killer who could be living right next door. >> i don't think i've ever seen anybody like this. and more time in the air.e grod suddenly, faraway places don't seem so...far away. ♪
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for three whole months, brittany tavar was just missing. and all the searching from the canadian mounties to the fbi produced no sign of brittany or joe roberts, the young border who disappeared along with her. nothing. not a thing. and then on october 12th -- >> he was caught in seattle in a grocery store in the area, trying to steal lunch meat. >> his captor was a clerk in a grocery store. >> it wasn't a sheriff. it wasn't a police officer. it was somebody that was employed by a grocery store to deter theft. >> it wasn't until after the
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seattle police showed up and arrested roberts on the shoplifting charge that they discovered this was one very wanted man and so-called the police in st. augustine, florida. >> sometimes we have to count on luck and sometimes we have to count on their mistake. in this case, i think he made a mistake and we had a little luck on our side. >> and then a little more luck. >> they had found brittany tavar's car parked in like a north seattle library parking lot. the keys had been locked inside of it, actually. >> so, police have the car, but no brittany. it wasn't long before policemen from florida were sitting in a seattle interrogation room with young mr. roberts. her family waited again. this time, to hear what roberts would say. only he could resolve the mystery, why she had been out of touch for months. >> you always hold out a small amount of hope that she would be alive and you never give up hope.
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>> and then, within three hours, there in that police station, joe roberts finally answered the question that had been hanging over everybody, half hope, half dread, what happened to brittany tavar. the answer was perhaps the most dreadful story this young crime reporter had yet written, taken right from the confession roberts gave police. >> she woke up early in the morning of her court case, woke him up very angry that something wasn't done correctly or that he didn't do it at all and was bugging him early in the morning, trying to get him out of bed, yelling at him. >> now, why would she do that? didn't take but a minute for her friends to figure it out. >> this whole big argument with joe was about him not being able to get this dvd or cd up to perfection, about what they were going to take to court. >> the court case against ann lydon, that is. so her friends speculated about what happened that last morning of her life. said she must have vented her temper on a man who, according
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to a former landlady, had a drug habit, possible mental issues and an anger problem. >> i think it just got to the point where he got pushed to the point of no return. >> in a statement to police, roberts said they argued the night before her disappearance and then the next morning. brittany went off about something, which is when -- >> he grabbed a hammer and hit her in the head a couple of times. >> that anger issue again. >> right. and she was laying on their kitchen -- on the kitchen floor, bleeding. in the report he says there was lots and lots of blood. but i guess she didn't die at that point. so then he took a knife from the kitchen and slit her throat. and at first he tried to stuff her body in the attic of her house, but he says she was too heavy for him to carry all the way up those stairs and then decided he was going to leave town and dump her body in the woods. roberts would tell investigators he brought the dogs with him to buy him some time because he knew people that knew her well would think it was strange that
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she just left without her animals. >> it was a shock, of course. and then joe roberts answered another question. this one with no good answer. where was brittany? >> she was found on a state road sort of where some homeless camps in the area, but it's mainly just woods. >> one of the most terrible things would be to know that someone you loved died in fear, you know. died in a moment of terror and pain. and that was a very, very hard thing for me to accept. it was just -- even today, it's just chilling for me to think about that. >> but at least -- >> we never would have found the body if he hadn't told us, maybe she would be found in the forest somewhere. maybe it would show up in 20 years, but we wouldn't have found it. >> having offered his detailed can confession to the police, roberts pleaded not guilty to the crime of murder. it's expected the state would try to show evidence of premeditation, saying roberts
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intended to commit the crime. >> brittany didn't keep tools in her kitchen. that was my first thought. where did this hammer come from? and it was very convenient for him to grab it. >> because his case is being readied for trial, neither joe roberts nor his attorney would speak to "dateline." their strategy remains to be seen. an insanity defense? some court observers here expect that. or perhaps self defense. a claim that brittany attacked him before he killed her. as brittany's family awaits a trial, her friends look after brittany's dogs. >> they're in great shape. happy, healthy. they're really good dogs, you know. brittany would have wanted that. she would have wanted, you know, somebody that loves them to have them. >> and her friends mourn, as does her family. >> i guess you have a point from which you move on, but there really isn't closure.
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and that actually is something that the homicide detectives know. there really isn't closure. it's a cliche people use, but there is no closure. >> brittany tavar lived life on her own terms. naive maybe, reckless sometimes. and it cost her dearly. >> she just thought she was invincible. she didn't think anything bad would happen. >> that's part of who she was. she did have a very big heart. >> she did and lived out loud and was exuberant and generous and for those who loved her, is eternally missed for all those things. >> she was my sister and i have been robbed the rest of my life with my sister. i've been robbed of that relationship. i've been robbed of those conversations. i've been robbed. >> that's all for now. i'm lester holt. thanks for joining us. announcer: last week on "all-star celebrity apprentice,"
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the teams jetted out of new york city on board mr. trump's personal airplane. trumfor your task this week, both teams will create a photo experience promoting universal orlando resort. announcer: on team power, project manager omarosa pushed the envelope with an ambitious plan. omarosa: this is what we're looking at -- three distinct walls, three different spaces. lil jon: that's way too much to do in a short, short, short amount of time. announcer: but on plan b, project manager dee snider deded to keep it simple. dee: every time we do any task, they say, "you didn't use your celebrity enough." i would love to have cutouts of all six of us. announcer: on the day of the presentation, team power was feeling the wrath of omarosa. omarosa: i've never seen the web shooter in a movie. i'm trying to make it authentic. la toya: if you say something negative to her, the venom comes out. announcer: in the boardroom, tensions rose on plan b. gary is very dear. he's a lot of fun. but he's very distracting. when was i distracting? are you now unhappy with marilu? no, i just understand what she is and where she's coming from. announcer: and when the results were announced, an emotional omarosa broke down.
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you won $40,000 in honor of michael. omarosa: [ crying ] i just miss him so much. announcer: but not everyone on her time was buying it. la toya: i truly believe that she's using this as a card to manipulate herself through the game and soar to the top. dennis: that right there was like an oscar winner right there. announcer: back in the boardroom, dee snider fell on his sword. so, as the person who ultimately made the decision to use that concept, i feel that i am the marked man. dee, you're fired. [ mid-tempo music plays ] penn: congratulations. omarosa: oh. lisa: you just had me in tears. marilu: that was nice. michael's looking out for you, baby. that was just too much, that moment. [ sighs ] claudia: when she was crying, there was no tears coming out. la toya: that's -- i was trying to look around her to see that. that's why i was going like that. lisa: cheers. omarosa: to michael. both: to michael. oh. she recovers quickly. omarosa might be the best actress here. we all saw her performance in the boardroom. i've never seen tearless cry scenes.

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